Known as one of the most beautiful ancient cities, Rome is also a city known for romance and great food. In my book that means there are so many reasons to visit! On my recent week-long trip to Italy, we had a jam-packed itinerary: Rome, Naples, Pompeii and some much needed relaxation at the end!
Particularly in Rome, I wanted to squeeze a lot in: see the main historic sites, enjoy Italian food, soak up some Italian piazza culture. I found planning was key and I wanted to share with you the highlights of my trip and some recommendations so you can see the best Rome has to offer in just 2 days. (Note: I omitted going inside the Vatican on this trip – it was August and hot, and I understand theres no air con there, but I think I covered pretty much everything else!).
Arrival: Location, Location, Location
If time in the city is limited, you don’t want to waste any of it travelling from your out-of-town hotel. So we opted to stay at the ‘Borgofico Relais & Wellness’ hotel in the historic old town area of Rome. ‘Hotel’ is possibly overselling it slightly. Its small (only 6 rooms), with a day-time only reception. However we were won over by 2 factors: location and modern/ minimalist style rooms. From this base we were able to walk to everything we wanted to see within Rome: 4 minutes to piazza Navona, 15 mins to the Trevi fountain, 20 mins to Vatican City and 25 mins to the Colosseum. A whole host of fantastic bars and restaurants were dotted around the hotel (more on those later!).
The hotel were really helpful in advance and arranged (at a cost) a transfer from the airport. We arrived late in the evening, getting to the hotel shortly before midnight so went straight to bed, in anticipation of the next few days exploring Rome.
Day 1 AM: Ancient Rome
I’m certainly no history buff, but when in Rome… you have to see the sights! And see them we did. As a total novice on the sights of Rome, I didn’t really know where to start, so before our trip I booked onto a 3-hour tour of the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum, led by a company called ‘walks of Italy’. If (like me) your not even sure what those last two are, don’t worry! The guide (ours was John) explained everything in a totally accessible way, without being patronising – no prior knowledge was needed! Our tour met at 8.30am on a Sunday morning and it was nice to be up early enough and walk to the Colosseum without the hustle and bustle (and heat!).
John really helped bring the ancient ruins to life, as well as explain what had happened to them over the past 2,000 years and how they ended up in their present condition. I particularly enjoyed how having a guide meant small details I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed were pointed out to us – like original patches of marble floor. The group size was nice and small too, plus we were provided with radio ear pieces to ensure we could always hear the guide, even while walking. I’d really recommend this tour from Walks of Italy, it wasn’t cheap, but was definitely money well spent (it also ensured you skip the queues at each attraction – queuing in summer heat is not what you want to be doing on holiday!).
Top tip: There are public water fountains all over Rome (thank to the Ancient Romans building the aqueducts) including right outside the Colosseum. Be sure to have a bottle with you and you can keep topping it up all day.
Day 1: Lunch
You may have seen on my recent ‘top 5 holiday apps‘ post, that I started using an app called ‘The Fork’. This app gives you access to reviews of nearby restaurants and even gives you exclusive offers (I’ve seen up to 50% off!). You can filter by distance, rating and by offers, to find the restaurant that is perfect for you.
After our ancient Rome tour we were ready for lunch and having wandered back up towards the old town decided to look on the app for somewhere to stop off. One of the restaurants the app recommend was ‘La locanda del prosciutto’, which looked like the kind of food we were after; Italian meats and cheeses with wine. We booked a table for 15 minutes time and walked to the restaurant. On arrival they had our booking and showed us to our table – easy!
We enjoyed some fabulous meats and cheeses here, opting for a sharing platter with (I like to think obligatory) wine on the side. Service could have been a little faster (one guy to serve everyone, until about 1.30pm when a second arrived), but hey, we were in no rush and the food was fantastic.
Day 1 PM: Piazza time, Trevi fountain and Spanish steps
One of the aspects of European cities I love is the quaint squares (in Italian, piazzas) where you can sit and enjoy a drink in the warm European summer. We did lots of this on our trip and its a great way of spending an afternoon – wandering from one bar/cafe to another, seeing the sights along the way and stopping off for gelato!
It turns out I’m quite fond of aperol spritz…
Of course in Rome there are plenty of sights to see (and also bars to visit!) whilst wandering the streets. The Trevi fountain is a must- its an example of a baroque fountain, which took 30 years to build, finally opening in 1762. Legend says that if visitors throw a coin into the fountain, they are ensured a return to Rome, so of course I did just that…
In 2016 over €3,800 was thrown into the Trevi Fountain EVERY DAY! From 2012 it has been illegal for the public to remove the money, instead it is collected by Caritas, a Catholic charity who use the money to help the poor and those in conflict zones. If you want to head a little further north, you can also check out the Spanish steps, built in 1723-1725 and made famous with their inclusion in the 1953 film Roman Holiday, starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck.
Day 1: Dinner
Time for dinner. You might be thinking that this weekend in Rome is basically a load of restaurant and bar hopping with some ancient ruins thrown in….and you’d be right! But in my book that makes for a great city break.
Again, we consulted with the Fork app for recommendations of where to eat. One of the (current) highest rated restaurants on there is called Restaurant Giulia and it was just a 10 minute walk from our hotel. The food we had here was fantastic. If you can get a table by the large windows, it makes for a particularly lovely evening (randomly during our visit there was a film being recorded outside, so we had lots to see). The menu wasn’t particularly well detailed (there was a dish called ‘no meat, no fish’ – but it didn’t actually tell you what it DID contain?!) but the waiter was perfectly willing to answer any questions. Here’s some pictures of my meal to whet your appetite.
Day 2 AM: Vatican City (optional tour)
We decided to skip on a tour of the Vatican, but there are plenty available (I recommend finding the best ones on tripadvisor and buying tickets in advance to skip the queues – when we visited it was hot and there were LOTS of people trying to buy tickets.). Still, there was plenty to see from the outside, including the grandeur of St Peter’s basilica.
If you do want to go inside its worth researching which areas you want to see – the Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512 is one of the biggest tourist draws. Its also worth remembering that to enter the Vatican you need to have shoulders and knees covered (that goes for men as well as women).
Day 2: Lunch/PM
The streets around the hotel were great to explore – old, cobbled and winding streets.Bar del Fico was busy every time we passed and was a nice spot to have a drink in a small piazza. We then checked out of the hotel and wandered towards the train station (stopping off at a few cafes en route) for our onward travel to Naples and Pompeii.
Day 2: Dinner
The food was up market Italian and some of the best we had in Italy. Because we booked within the app we also received discount off the otherwise higher end prices. Even had we been paying full price though, it was well worth it. Great choice of food and an extensive wine list.
This bought to an end a fabulous few days. Hopefully I’ve given you a taste of what you can experience in just a short weekend in Rome. Let me know if you take me up on any of my recommendations. If you’re lucky enough to be going soon, enjoy!
This post includes my recommendations for a weekend in Rome based on my experiences over a 4 day period.